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Anatomy of an Adoption

Associated Press

Donna Johnson couldn’t afford another child; she was barely able to support her 18-month-old daughter, Suzi. So through the nondenominational Holy Family Services adoption agency in Pasadena, she found a new family for her unborn baby. Eight weeks before her due date, Johnson met Mark and Susan. And so began a new friendship and a redefining of family.

Week Six

After exchanging awkward hugs, Susan starts asking questions about Donna’s family history. The pregnant woman coaxes Susan to feel the baby move beneath her rippling stomach. Susan is startled. Donna laughs.

Together, they visit the obstetrician. Gradually, they warm to each other.

Week Three

The birth father has yet to sign the adoption release. Donna sobs. Suzi crawls onto her mother’s lap and brushes away her tears.

Susan is afraid, but she searches for the positive.

“We can look at it another way,” she says. “OK, we’re going to give this baby the best first . . . days possible, whether she stays with us or not.”

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Week Two

The adoption is on. The birth father has relented. The release papers now bear his signature.

Week One

Holding one child, Donna talks about giving up another.

“I picture myself dealing with it better if I can just hold her and say goodbye,” she says. “Even though she won’t understand, I can’t see myself surviving this without giving her a hug and a kiss.”

The Birth Day

Donna is scheduled for a caesarean. Mark and Susan keep her company before she is wheeled into the delivery room. She lies on a table and smiles woozily at Susan. The incision is made. There is a muffled gurgle.

Susan’s eyes open wide. Donna smiles.

“There’s your little girl, Susan! I’m so happy for you!”

Susan stands on tiptoe to watch nurses clean and dress her daughter, Emily. A nurse hands Emily to Susan, who pronounces her beautiful.

“Let me give her a kiss,” Donna says.

The Adoption

The next morning, Donna kisses Emily for the last time, and Emily goes home with her new family.

“Basically, I want pictures a couple of times a year,” Donna says. “Any milestones she passes, I’d like to hear about them. I don’t think I’m strong enough for anything more.

“I wonder if that means I’m a bad mother. But then I know Mark and Susan. How could I regret the life she’ll have?”


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